At book launch, Afe Babalola, Unilag VC, Shobanjo, Ekpu, others honour Akinfeleye
• Extol Honouree’s Four Decades Commitment To Journalism Scholarship
Founder, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Aare Afe Babalola and Vice Chancellor, University of Lagos, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, were among high networth guests that honoured the renowned communication scholar, Prof. Ralph Afolabi Akinfeleye, Thursday, last week during the presentation of Issues In Fourth And Fifth Estates Of The Realm (A Festschrift in honour of Professor Ralph Afolabi Akinfeleye).
Held at the University of Lagos, chairman of the occasion, Aare Babalola, founder Afe Babalola University (ABUAD), who was represented by Chief Gboyega Oyewole, described the honouree as a kind and respectful man.
The ABUAD founder said Akinfeleye assisted him greatly when he was Pro-Chancellor at the University of Lagos.
Before guests started to pay their tributes, Babalola commended the honouree for his commitment and unblemished service to media scholarship in Nigeria, and by extension, Africa.
Babalola, however, chose the event to bemoan the country’s educational system, saying, “it is in crisis.”
He said, “we are now faced with problem of underfunding of education, unpaid salaries, pensions and other emoluments, badly depreciated naira, unemployment and different shapes and shades of violence, kidnapping, armed robbery, poverty, deplorable road networks.”
Babalola decried the poor allocation to education in the country’s budget, saying the government of today has failed to see it as a challenge.
He also lamented that many countries have not met the United Nations 26 per cent recommendation to every country on education.
Expressing concern over the decay in the nation’s education sector, he insisted that government should implement United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) approved budget for education.
He called on government to inject the necessary financial stimulus in the nation’s university.
He said, “in compliance, Canada spent 28 per cent of yearly national budget on education, Ghana, our neighbour spent 30 per cent of her budget, almost nine per cent of its GDP, currently the highest in the world.
“Unfortunately, however, despite perennial rhetoric by successive Nigeria government on their plan to build world class universities, they have consistently failed to meet the requirements of the UNESCO funding benchmark. For example, in the 2017 budget, N448.01 billion was allocated to education, representing about six per cent of the 7.30 trillion budget. The percentage of budgetary allocation to education was further reviewed in the 2021 budget. In the 2021 budget, only 5.6 of 13. 08 trillion budget was allocated for education, which represents the lowest percentage allocation in 2021.”
He admitted that universities in Nigeria do not have the “financial strength to compete with other universities around the world,” which led to where many of them are now, “struggling to meet their overhead cost and to make their significant annual income is so far away.”
“I want to also appeal to the Federal Government to pay all outstanding salaries to universities teacher and fund education adequately. It is only when education is adequately funded that universities will be able to perform their functions of quality teaching, up-to-date research and impact in the community,” he said.
While appreciating the renowned communication scholar for pioneering the first University radio and television in Nigeria named UNILAG FM radio station and UNILAG television, he said Akinfeleye’s acclaimed brilliance, professional discipline and the manner he conducts himself are praiseworthy.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, who was represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof. Lucien Chukwu, thanked the honouree for genuine love for the department of mass communication in the university, saying, “he is one of those pillars that have nurtured our Department of Mass Communication and taking it to the global arena where it is today.”
According to the UNILAG Vice-Chancellor, Akinfeleye has paid his dues in media education, adding: “The legacies he has left behind will be sustained.”
He also said UNILAG would implement the mass communication unbundling policies.
The Festschrift reviewer, Dr. Reuben Abati, while presenting his paper titled, Ralph Akinfeleye, A Teacher’s Hilarious Reward, said the book is 928-page and edited by five scholars, Prof. Lai Oso, Prof. Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, Prof. Innocent Okoye, Prof. Umaru Pate and Dr. Fassy Yusuf.
He said the book would qualify as Akinfeleye’s own hilarious reward, as according to him, over 50 persons have put together the collection of essays in his honour.
The book is divided into eight parts and 57 chapters with the forward written by Afe Babalola.
Abati said when Akinfeleye reads this book, his only response must be laughter and joy. “The book is a very rich and informative and should be made compulsory for students, teachers and mass communication practitioners.”
For Abati, what is good to note about the book is that it is not in his memory, but in his honour, stressing that not many Nigerian teachers collect their own rewards on earth.
According to the respected columnist, “they do so in the grave, and even that is not certain.”
Abati added, “I found most instructive part 8 of the book, where former Vice Chancellors of UNILAG, Prof. Rahmon Bello and Prof. Toyin Ogundipe; Biodun Shobanjo, Ray Ekpu, John Momoh, Abike Dabiri, Lekan Sote, Innocent Okoye, Tony Akiotu and others paid tribute to Akinfeleye. This is probably the most engaging part of the book as Akinfeleye is showered with accolades by those who know him worked with him, sat in his news writing and editing classes or encountered him in the courses of professional engagement.”
He added that Akinfeleye is their darling Dr. Ralph, who became Professor of Mass Communication at the University of Lagos and the first African to be elected World Journalism Education Council (WJEC).
Issues in Fourth and Fifth Estates of the Realm is an encyclopaedia on mass communication and its various adjuncts and should be of relevance to scholars, practitioners, and students in journalism, broadcasting, public relations, advertising, social media, and related disciplines. It is divided into seven parts with a section devoted to tributes.
The sections covered are Media Law and Ethics, Media Social Responsibility, and Press/Media and Politics.
Others are Social Media/Information, Communication and Technology; Media Convergence and Digitisation; Communication and Development; and Miscellany: Electronic, News, Music, Health, Print, and Sports.
He noted that part one to seven dealt with issues of scholastic enquiry, issues in Akinfeleye’s teachings and writings over the decades. These are media laws and ethics, social media and ICT, media convergence and digitisation, communication and development.
He said, in the first chapter, Prof Lai Oso, in an essay titled, “Professionalism in journalism, A critical perspective,” sets the tone for the rest of the first seven parts of the book, as the interrogates the question of professionalism, its boundaries and the question of ideologies, limits, ownership, ethics and age of social media.
The next chapter focuses on Media Social Responsibility. Olufemi Onabajo, Adepoju Tejumaiye, Fassy Yusuf and Innocent Okoye interrogate what the responsibility of the media is, especially the corruption in media space, which often enthuse from Akinfeleye, Fourth estate of the realm or fourth estate of the wreck?
Others who joined in praising the media guru include, Chairman and CEO of Channels TV, John Momoh; Chairman/CEO of Nigerians in Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa; CEO Troyka Holdings Limited, Biodun Shobanjo and others.
Dabiri-Erewa described him as “a good teacher that ignites imagination and instils learning,” noting that the lessons learnt from Akinfeleye while an undergraduate have guided her till this very moment.
Chairman Festschrift Committee, Yusuf, commending Akinfeleye’s scholarship accomplishments, said he has bridged the gap between town and gown.
Celebrated columnist, Ray Ekpu, also described him as a complete town and gown man that is versatile.
Momoh described him as “a teacher of teachers and exceptionally intelligent.” He said they always look forward to his class. He also described him as rare breed and very friendly.
Shobanjo said when Akinfeleye told him about building the Biodun Shobanjo Multi-Media Centre of Excellence at Mass Communication Department, UNILAG, he couldn’t resist. He said they are currently having conversation about effective town and gown partnership.
Former Vice Chancellor Unilag, Prof. Rahmon Bello described him as a man that touched his life before and after his tenure as Vice Chancellor. He said he is a man that would never take no for an answer.
The array of contributors makes the festschrift one of the best ever materials on mass communication in Nigeria. No doubt, it is a seminal book in honour of an iconic African scholar and administrator.
The honouree, who recently retired from the University of Lagos after about 40 years of service, is the first African to be elected into the council of the global body of journalism and mass communication scholars and professionals – World Journalism Education Council (WJEC) with headquarters in the United States of America, bridges the divide between the gown and the ivory tower with his involvement in several industry activities including serving as Chief Consultant to the defunct Concord Group of newspapers and Editor-in-Chief of the Community newspapers; Consultant to UNFPA (United Nations Funds for Population Activities), UNESCO, and UNICEF; Consultant to the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Board member of the Nigerian Press Council and DAAR Communications Plc.; Chief Assessor of the Nigerian Merit Awards Committee; External Doctoral Theses Assessors to many Nigerian and foreign universities.